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Stars

The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. 1 Corinthians 15:41

I have always been fascinated by the stars.  In fact, for many years I longed to be an astronaut so I could travel beyond our atmosphere and see the stars from a different vantage point.  It’s strange to realize that the average person probably knows little to nothing about the beautiful lights that grace our heavens each and every night.

When we got our current dog, Tucker, I insisted that my husband and I walk him each night.  It’s become a wonderful time for us to recap our day and spend time together.  We have a route that takes us around our block and through a local park.  And as we approach an open space area we stop and marvel at the heavens.  Orion’s belt, the Big Dipper, Venus, Mars, the moon all wink back at us, along with thousands of other beautiful pinpoint lights.

When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.  Matthew 2:10

Of course, this time of year stargazing takes on a special meaning.  It’s a reminder of God’s sign to the world that something amazing, His long-given promise, was about to unfold.  It was a perfect way to announce our Lord’s birth.  A unique bright light from the heavens for all to see.  Some would accept it as a miracle while others still today consider it a threat to all they hold dear.

I thank God for those millions of tiny lights in the sky.  When I turn my face upward I know I’m looking right at God’s wonder, glory and authority.  It’s His way of telling us there’s more to this plan than just the Earth.  The heavens and its stars are endless, just like our Almighty God.

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Burn Brightly

Then you will shine among them like 
stars in the sky as you hold firmly 
to the Word of life. 
Philippians 2:15-16

I have to admit in the carrot and stick scenario of motivation I tend to be more of a “stick” motivated person.  My fear of punishment or failure outweighs any reward I might be offered.  It’s probably why my favorite book in the Bible is James.  He’s upfront, to the point, and sounds a bit chastising at times.  So, when I read about the glorious promises of faithfulness to God, I can sometimes gloss over them.

But when I read this section in Philippians – where Paul is urging the church to obey God’s word – I was struck with the visual he presents as our reward.  “To shine like stars.”  He reminds us to pray, be obedient and faithful without grumbling or arguing (a bit of chastising).  He also reminds us that as Christians, we are to be constantly viewing ourselves as being “set apart.”  

Do everything without grumbling or 
arguing, so that you may become blameless 
and pure, children of God without fault 
in a warped and crooked generation.
Philippians 2:14-15

And the reward for being set apart through this constant reminder that we are firmly attached to Jesus’ main vine? To be like those beautiful, twinkling stars in the night sky.

My husband and I walk our dog each night after dinner.  We are just far away enough from the city to have a decent darkened sky.  Each night we stop in one place briefly and look at the stars.  From our location we can easily find the Big Dipper and Orion’s Belt.  I’ve always had a fascination with the stars – wondering what is beyond our tiny blue planet.  When we are in a season to see other planets, we bring out our phone’s star apps and marvel at the world beyond.

Although in reality there are billions upon billions of stars in the sky, we can only see a few of the brightest ones.  They wink at us saying “hello old friend!”  And when I look up and see the ones familiar to me, it brings me comfort that they are the same today as they were when I was a child.  They steadily burn bright.

That’s what the apostle Paul wants for us.  To be those shining, steady beacons. Comforting many who see us as ones set apart for the glory of the heavens. This is surely the carrot in our motivation story.  But it is the chastising spirit of the stick – obeying God, immersing ourselves in His Word, praying regularly – that will help us burn brightly.